India’s Shubhankar Sharma upstaged the game’s biggest stars when he shot to the top of the leaderboard at the US$10 million World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship after a brilliant five-under 66 gave him a two-shot lead on Friday.
The 21-year-old, who is the youngest competitor in the elite field, started his day in glorious fashion with an eagle at the par-4 first hole and then signed off his second round in style with three closing birdies, much to the delight of the Mexican fans at the Golf Club de Chapultepec.
With his two-day total of 11-under 131, Sharma finds himself in dreamland as he leads the likes of reigning Masters Tournament champion Sergio Garcia (65), 2017 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, Xander Schauffele (68) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (67), who share second place on 133.
Defending champion and World No. 1 Dustin Johnson fired a 66 for a share of fifth place, four off the lead, with amongst others, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who battled to a 69, Bubba Watson, who returned a 66 and Pat Perez, who shot a 67.
Sharma has burst onto the scene following two victories in co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour events in South Africa and Malaysia over the past three months. In what is his WGC and PGA TOUR debut, the son of a retired army colonel has been impressive with his stunning performance after two rounds.
“I’m really happy. I couldn’t be in a better situation. Played so well, and the bogeys that I made today were just three putts. Otherwise I just got the ball in play all day and it was great to finish with three birdies in a row,” said Sharma.
“I thought about nothing, I just wanted to have fun. It’s my first WGC and I was happy that I’ll play four days because I missed the cut in the last two events that I played. Even though I missed the cuts, I knew I was playing well. So I just wanted to have fun, and yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun.”
He began his day in style, hammering a three-wood 320 yards down towards the first green which saw the ball ending two feet from the hole for a tap-in eagle. Successive bogeys on the second and third holes saw the Indian make the turn in 35 before coming home strongly with birdies on 11, 12, 16, 17 and 18. His longest birdie putt was from 24 feet on 12 while the other birdies were from inside of 10 feet.
“I worked all my life to come and play at a high stage like this. You have to expect great things from yourself if you want to play at a high stage,” said Sharma.
The best result by an Indian golfer in the World Golf Championships event is by Jeev Milkha Singh, who finished fourth at the 2009 WGC-Mexico Championship but with his position heading into the weekend, he intends to keep fighting, especially when a strong week here can see him qualifying for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Masters Tournament and THE PLAYERS Championship in the coming weeks.
“That will be a dream come true if I get into the Masters. I know I need a good finish this week, so I’m just trying to keep my eye on the ball and try to do my best,” said Sharma.
“In the past four months, my life has totally changed. Obviously I want to get to the PGA TOUR. So everything is happening so fast, it’s just taking time to sink in. Obviously the final destination for me is the PGA TOUR, that’s always been my dream. Just playing well here this week will get me closer to my dream and just looking forward to it.”